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by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | February 17, 2012

Iype Abraham of Radisson Edwardian discusses the move to rebrand as Radisson Blu.Two years ago, Minneapolis-based Carlson -- now Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group -- unveiled Ambition 2015. At the core of that five-year business strategy was the positioning of its Radisson brand as a major global competitor in the upscale segment. At its annual conference being held this week at the Atlantis resort in Paradise Island,  Bahamas (where The Hotel Insider is reporting from), Radisson's fast-tracked evolution is well under way.
     Speaking at a media breakfast yesterday, Feb. 16, Hubert Joly, president, CE0 and director of Carlson, said "Radisson's transformation continues, and we do not plan to stand still." As of year-end 2011, said Joly, 25 percent of Radisson hotels in North America had completed renovations to implement new brand standards in guest rooms, lobbies, and dining and meeting venues. That number is expected to reach 50 percent by the end of this year. In total, $600 million has so far been committed to the brand effort. And in implementing the new standards, roughly 20 percent of the brand's hotels were purged.
     By far, though, Radisson's biggest news was the aggressive growth of its Radisson Blu brand, the more luxurious tier of this full-service brand. Joly announced that hours earlier, the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group had inked a deal with the London-based Radisson Edwardian group that would see its highly visible portfolio of 13 independently owned luxury properties rebranded as Radisson Blu, tucking them more firmly into the Radisson camp. It is a huge coup for the hotel company, as it continues its global push to fly its flag in key markets.
     In response to my question as to why Radisson Blu and not Marriott's Autograph Collection, which would have allowed each of the 13 hotels to hold on to its independent moniker, Iype Abraham, commercial development director of Radisson Edwardian, said, "We certainly looked at other options, but we believe the 20-year history we have being in Carlson's system will give us serious traction. It is a relationship we are committed to, and we see no reason to change that."
     As of December 2011, Radisson has 421 hotels in operation and another 111 in the global pipeline, including the 500-room Radisson Blu Hotel at Mall of the Americas, a $137 million project scheduled to open in Minneapolis next year. The first Radisson Blu in North America, the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, debuted in Chicago last November.
     Said  Thorsten Kirschke, Carlson's president, the Americas, "We asked ourselves a few years ago, how can we get Radisson to a more competitive level in North America, and we are doing just that. But, it is also happening all across the globe."